A castle, perched high upon a mountain among the clouds, surrounded by rugged mountains and dramatic valleys. It’s the kind of thing you read about in stories as a child, imagining a world full of carriage rides and ball gowns. And it is exactly this fantasy that is brought to life at Neuschwanstein – Germany’s fairytale castle.
But what is it really like to visit? To answer quickly, touristy as heck but spectacular and well worth it.
Quick disclaimer before we begin. I visited Neuschwanstein Castle in December 2017, it was cold and snowy, with low visibility and often icy rain. It was also perfectly magical. Everything in this post is based from this experience along with the huge amount of information I absorbed from the internet while planning my trip. You will also find a few links to some of the most helpful resources I found throughout the post as well as at the end. Ok, let’s do this.
Why you should visit Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein castle is located just near the town of Füssen in Germany, close to the border of Austria in Bavaria. It was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th Century, said to have been a tribute to Richard Wagner and it was intended to be his home. Unfortunately he died 1886 before it’s completion and today it remains unfinished.
The doors to the castle were opened to the public just seven weeks following King Ludwig’s death and ever since, thousands and thousands of people make the journey to see the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s vision of Belle’s fairytale home.
The only convincing I needed to visit was to see a photograph and realise that this was a real place that you could visit, and it was actually pretty easy to do so.
How to get to Neuschwanstein Castle
I mentioned this in another post, but I strongly recommend staying the night in the town of Füssen. Not only is the town itself well worth exploring, you will give yourself every opportunity to experience the castle, especially outside of peak tourist times.
In saying that, if you really want to visit but only have one day to spare, it is definitely achievable as a day trip from Munich.
Start your journey by taking the train from München Hbf (Munich Central Station) to Füssen. The trains depart every hour, but be sure to check departure times on the Deutsche Bahn website where you can also buy your tickets. The journey takes around 2 hours and the view itself as you get closer and closer to the mountains is really beautiful. While not compulsory in Germany, I would recommend getting a seat reservation for this journey as it will ensure you spend the two hours sitting comfortably not standing in the doorway, as this train can get full particularly in peak times.
Once in Füssen, you will either be checking into your hotel like we did, or heading straight for the castles. The bus departures for Neuschwanstein operate inline with the train arrivals and are just across the road, so if you are heading straight there you don’t have much waiting around to do. If you are checking into your hotel first, make sure to check bus departure times before leaving the warmth of your room, as we ended up with a 40 minute wait in the snow. Oops.
The bus stop is very well signed and you will pretty easily be able to find the correct stop. Bus number 73 or 78 will take you to Hohenschwangau, the village at the base of both castles and you buy your bus tickets from the driver.
If you happen to miss the bus times and can’t wait, you do also have the option of taking a taxi for a flat fare of 10 euros. There will probably be some other people around to split the fare with you as well, so this can be an inexpensive way to escape the crowded bus.
After about a 10 minute bus ride you will arrive at Hohenschwangau and you can begin making your journey to the castles. Of course everyone comes to visit Neuschwanstein, but closer to town is also Hohenschwangau Castle which is very impressive itself, just unfortunate that it is so overshadowed by it’s famous friend.
Exploring Neuschwanstein Castle
If you want to go inside the castles, you only have one option and that is to take a guided tour which will cost 13 euros. If you are wanting to do this, head straight to the ticket office a little way up the hill from the bus stop. I believe tickets can also be purchased online in advance but more information can be found on the castle website.
I made the choice not to do a tour of the interior. I debated it quite a lot, spoke to a number of people about if it would be worth it and read so many blogs and articles on the subject. Neuschwanstein was never finished, and the tour apparently focuses only on those finished rooms. Yes they are lavish, but apparently not unmissable and people seemed to think it was interesting, but not essential to their visit. Overall, I hate standing in lines, and with having to queue for tickets then for admission, I decided I would much rather spend the time running around the mountains and viewing the spectacular exterior and I have no regrets at all about that decision.
Also, you can’t take photographs inside.
But decide what experience you want to have, and do what you think you will most enjoy. I think that is key to making the whole journey enjoyable.
From the village, you will be able to look up and see the castle sitting up above. If you want a closer look or are taking a tour, you will need to get up there. Follow the people and begin the walk up the winding path or pay for a ride on a horse drawn carriage. We decided to walk, which I would personally recommend doing as it really is quite beautiful to stroll through the woods. It is a steep walk and one that I took pretty slowly, but there are many places to stop and rest, take in the mountain air and epic views and of course snap a few photos.
How perfect is this photo of a couple walking up the mountain in the rain? And yes, it was freezing.
Apparently there is also a shuttle bus option which would be the easiest and would be worth looking into if you are unable to do the walk and don’t want to reach the top via horse, but I didn’t find much information on this so am unsure of those details. I am certain they are somewhere on the internet though.
Once you reach the castle, there are toilets and a cafe and a little further up is the viewing platform. On one side you have the castle, on the other epic mountain views. Looking straight down from the side of the castle you can see the crystal clear water of the river flowing past, down the mountain.
It is really beautiful and I was glad to enjoy a rest and a snack after the walk and really pinch myself as I had to ask “is this real life?!”.
Viewing & Photographing Neuschwanstein Castle
This is probably a good time to mention that because of the time of year I visited, the main vantage point of the castle was closed. The iconic shots of Neuschwanstein that you tend to see are taken from Marienbrucke, a pedestrian bridge about 20 minutes walk from the castle. Because of the volume of snow in winter, the bridge gets very icy and dangerous and thus the entire walk is closed. While this was disappointing, I knew this from my research before my visit so I was prepared.
There are many other angles you can photograph the castle from, but in winter the best place I found to get the full castle in frame was on the Tegelberg Cable Car, which you can read about in this post. If you are visiting outside of winter, this is a great guide for where to go to get a great shot.
A big factor is also weather. Like visiting anywhere in Europe in winter, the weather is completely unpredictable. One minute there would be bright blue skies the next, visibility was gone and icy rain would sting any exposed skin.
The best way to be prepared for the weather is to know the conditions before you get there.
With technology these days, all you need to do this is an internet connection. Check out live webcams of the castle and Tegelberg here or my personal favourite, check out other peoples stories on Instagram. Search the geotag for Neuschwanstein and you will see the grouping of everyones stories giving you an up-to-date view of exactly what to expect.
Checking out Neuschwanstein on Instagram before visiting also meant I knew there was scaffolding on the back bit, so again I wasn’t disappointed when I arrived.
Because we stayed the night in Füssen, we visited Neuschwanstein twice. This was actually my original reason to stay the night as due to the unpredictability of the winter weather, I wanted to give myself every opportunity to get my photograph. Turned out this was a good idea as the first afternoon visibility was so low that most of the time we couldn’t see the castle through the clouds. Luckily the second day, while still not clear by any means, allowed us plenty of time to see the castle and to take a few shots.
So what about Hohenschwangau Castle?
This castle was the childhood home of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, built by his father in the 19th Century. It is very yellow, and totally dominates its spot on a slightly smaller hill on the other side of the village to Neuschwanstein.
Again, I chose not to go inside so I am unsure what that is like, but it is well worth the smaller walk to have a closer look. There is also a great vantage point to photograph Neuschwanstein at about the halfway point if you are not sick of taking photos yet. This is where I got my main shots from.
Nobody talks about this castle which is a little sad, as placed on it’s own it would be beautiful and very impressive. But unfortunately next to a real life fairytale castle, the bar for impressive is set impossibly high.
Want to know more about Neuschwanstein?
I haven’t really gone to much into the history of the castle in this post. I figure there is enough of that on the internet already! However if you do want to know more, here are the links that gave me the information I needed or just inspired me to go and visit myself.
For incredible photography and pure inspiration to visit, check out Polkadot Passport’s post.
For official information about the castle and visiting, check out the Neuschwanstein website.
More incredible photographs including some from the interior can be found at The Londoner. She also has some great tips if you have your own car and plan on doing a road trip.
Probably sensing a theme here, but Larissa’s photography not only made me certain to visit the castle, it also inspired me to book the night in Füssen.
Wikipedia of course, is always a good place to start when looking into the history of a place, and this entry is quite detailed.
In case you need another blog post or opinion, this one from Packing My Suitcase I found very helpful when initially planning my trip.
Well there you have it, pretty much everything I know about visiting Neuschwanstein Castle! Please let me know if there is anything else I should include or if you have any questions and I will be sure to update the post.
Yes it is a tourist hot spot, but there is a very good reason for this as it truly is just as beautiful and magical as the photos lead you to believe.